'Mind Gaming' Could Enter Market This Year

Mar 14, 2008 by Lisa Zyga weblog
Emotiv Headset
Emotiv System´s mind-control gaming headset.

In an adapted version of the Harry Potter video game, players lift boulders and throw lightning bolts using only their minds. Just as physical movement changed the interface of gaming with Nintendo's Wii, the power of the mind may be the next big thing in video games.

And it may come soon. Emotiv, a company based in San Francisco, says its mind-control headsets will be on shelves later this year, along with a host of novel "biofeedback" games developed by its partners.

Several other companies - including EmSense in Monterey, California; NeuroSky in San Jose, California; and Hitachi in Tokyo - are also developing technology to detect players´ brainwaves and use them in next-gen video games.

The technology is based on medical technology that has been around for decades. Using a combination of EEGs (which reveal alpha waves that signify calmness), EMGs (which measure muscle movement), and ECGs and GSR (which measure heart rate and sweating), developers hope to create a picture of a player´s mental and physical state. Near infrared spectroscopy (NIRS), which monitors changes in blood oxygenation, could also be incorporated since it overcomes some of the interference problems with EEGs.

Right now, getting high resolution readouts in the midst of interference is the greatest challenge for developers. Electric fields produced by nearby electronics and the body´s own muscles (especially the heart), and even blinking can interfere with EEGs. In addition, every individual´s brain activity varies, making it challenging to pinpoint every player´s cognitive state with certainty.

Besides meeting these technical challenges, gaming headsets must also be low-cost and mobile. This means that the gear must be significantly smaller and simpler than the headsets used for medical purposes. For example, while neurologists carefully position about 120 EEG sensors around the scalp, Emotiv´s headset contains 16 sensors, and NeuroSky´s has just one. But the companies say that they don´t need to detect subtle signals, and that basic brainwave activity can serve the needs of mind gaming. NeuroSky claims that its single sensor can tell if a player is focused, relaxed, afraid, or anxious.

In order for mind gaming to attract consumers, developers know they need to offer more than just interesting technology. Earlier biofeedback games - such as Atari´s MinkLink in 1984 and AmTex´s Bio Tetris in 1998 - never took off, possibly because they used old games. This time, developers plan to design novel games that can only be played with mind control complementing a traditional handset - similar to the novel sports games custom-designed for the Wii.

For example, with Emotiv's headset and the "Emotiv EmoKey," players may be able to incorporate biofeedback into many of their favorite PC games, such as the Harry Potter game. By using the EmoKey, players can link their detected brainwaves to actions in the game. For instance, by concentrating on an object, players can cause their avatar to pick up and handle that object.

Another company, Interactive Productline in Sweden, has a game called Mindball, which isn´t a video game, but uses mind control technology that may lead to video mind-gaming. Two players sit across from each other at a table, focusing on a small white ball. The objective is to make the ball roll toward your opponent and away from you, using only your mind. Headbands measure the players´ alpha waves, and the ball rolls away from the player with the calmest mind.

"Instead of activity and adrenalin, it is calmness and focus that mark the truly successful Mindball Game player," the company explains on its Web site. "Mindball Game is unique amongst machines since it is not controlled by the player´s rational and strategic thoughts and decisions. On the contrary, the participants are dependent on the body´s own intuitive reactions."

via: New Scientist

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User comments : 9

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not rated yet Mar 14, 2008
'Mind over matter' :)
not rated yet Mar 14, 2008
I'm skeptical, but we'll see.
2 / 5 (4) Mar 14, 2008
While it will not replace mouse and keyboard in the near future, just adding a few reliable interactions to the games will make for some interesting additions to interactivity. It will also likely lead to many non-gaming innovations.
not rated yet Mar 15, 2008
Very cool!
2 / 5 (4) Mar 15, 2008
This could be the next big revolution in electronics. Reminicent of the movie Firefox, where a Russian fighter jet is stolen that is controlled by the pilot's mind. Only drawback to it was that it only took commands in Russian... :) Looks like this unit speaks 'body language', which is nearly universal.
3 / 5 (4) Mar 15, 2008
As much as I'd love for this to come about, it's not going to happen unless they lower the price. I'll explain why:

$300 is the pricetag on the emotiv website. I, as a gamer, already have a Wii and a PS3. Why then, would I spend $300 for unproven technology with a potentially lackluster library of games?

Not only that, but it's a $300 dollar controller, not a system. So you need a computer to run this controller. In addition, the games will likely NOT be free. Standard games cost anywhere from $40-$60 dollars. Why then, would I spend $400 for virgin technology? I wouldn't.

Emotiv had best buddy up with a videogaming division and not try to be industrial/utility -and- gaming. I could justify purchasing it for $40.. maybe even $80 dollars. But $300 dollars? Not a chance.

They'd best get their act together and start making buddies with the big consoles, or they're never going to have the grass roots interest OR industrial utility they want.
5 / 5 (2) Mar 15, 2008
As much as I'd love for this to come about, it's not going to happen unless they lower the price. I'll explain why:

$300 is the pricetag on the emotiv website. I, as a gamer, already have a Wii and a PS3. Why then, would I spend $300 for unproven technology with a potentially lackluster library of games? ...

Not trying to be confrontational or anything just trying to understand your logic. A Wii & PS3, and figure in a few games and you've quickly run up a bill about $1000 or more, why not spend the $300 on a "mind control controller"? The cost, all things considered, seems par for the course to me.
5 / 5 (1) Mar 17, 2008
This is good news!
It seems the pace of progress in this field might be picking up fast pretty soon. Those are lots of companies listed in the article, and they're not the only ones - I know OCZ is preparing a similar product too, demoed at the recent CeBIT expo. There'll get to be competition, and that's a good thing.

I doubt the first attempts in this new field will work that well... yet I am still enthusiastic about them and want to see them in action. They are simply the first steps for something completely revolutionary.
not rated yet Mar 24, 2008
Oh, my dear Nintendo Wii, let us mind-meld and be as one! My mind to your mind! My thoughts to your thoughts!

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